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  • The first requirement of any job is that it should pay.

  • But almost as important yet much less commonly recognized, is that a job should feel full of meaning.

  • Yet, how does a job get to feel meaningful?

  • What even does it mean to say that a job has meaning?

  • There seem to be three things that imbue work with meaning.

  • Firstly, a meaningful job taps into the deepest, most sincere and talented parts of us.

  • So different people will necessarily find different sorts of work meaningful according to what's inside their deeper self.

  • For some, meaning might emerge from baking bread.

  • Others will feel their deep self engaged by computer science.

  • For others still, they'll feel most fully themselves, most fully alive when investing money

  • or teaching kids a foreign language.

  • Secondly, a meaningful job is one which to some extent helps others, which fixes a problem that humans have.

  • A job which in ways, large and small, serves humanity.

  • Meaningful work provides a service to others.

  • And thirdly, a job feels meaningful when the person doing it can viscerally sense, day to day, the impact of their work upon an audience.

  • Not only is the job theoretically meaningful, it actually feels meaningful as one does it in a course of an average day.

  • Why should it be so hard to find meaningful work?

  • Why are we in such a danger of doing work that brings in money but doesn't fulfill the meaning side of us?

  • Three big reasons stand out.

  • Firstly, because it's perilously hard for us to locate our true interests

  • in the time we have, before simply paying the bills becomes the imperative.

  • Our interests don't manifest themselves spontaneously.

  • They require us to patiently analyze ourselves,

  • and try out a range of options to see what feels as if it might have the best fit for us.

  • But unfortunately, schools and universities, as well as society at large, doesn't place much emphasis on this stage of education,

  • on helping people to understand their authentic working identities.

  • There's far more emphasis on simply getting ready for any job than a job that would particularly well-suited to us, which is a pity not just for individuals but for the economy as a whole, because people would always work better, harder and more fruitfully when their deep selves are engaged.

  • Secondly, many jobs are relatively meaningless because it's very possible, in the current economy,

  • to generate profits from selling people things that aren't really helping them in any way,

  • but are more hoodwinking them, or preying on their lack of self-command.

  • Most of us have a dangerously loose hold on what really brings us satisfaction long-term,

  • which gives room to entrepreneurs to build huge and profitable businesses

  • selling stuff which no one's particularly proud of at the end an average day.

  • Those working in these businesses know in their hearts that they haven't really helped anyone have a better life.

  • The job pays. That's why they keep doing it, but there's sadly very little meaning.

  • Thirdly, a job may have real meaning may genuinely be helping others, but it may not feel like this day to day, because many organizations are so large, so slow-moving, so split up over so many continents

  • that the purpose of everyone's workday gets lost amidst endless meetings, memos, conference calls and admin.

  • If you're one of the 10,000 people on four continents working towards a product that will help humanity in 2022,

  • you may well lose the thread of what the real purpose of it all is.

  • No wonder people who work in large organizations often fantasize about throwing it all in

  • and working in a job with more tangible sense of the end result.

  • For example, running a small B&B or landscape gardening firm.

  • The very scale of modern enterprise has sapped a lot of work of a sense of meaning.

  • This diagnosis helps to point the way to what we might begin to do to make work more meaningful for people.

  • Firstly, pay a lot more attention to helping people find their vocation, their real working authentic selves

  • through moves like career psychotherapy, extended work placements and changes to school and university curricula,

  • so as to allow students to start to analyze their identities and aptitudes from a much younger age.

  • Secondly, the more we as customers can support businesses engaged in meaningful work, the more meaningful jobs there will be.

  • Consumers have an enormous power over what kind of lives we can have as producers.

  • By raising the quality of our demand, we raise the number of jobs there are which can answer to mankind's deeper needs.

  • Thirdly, in businesses which should do meaningful work but on too large a scale over too long a period for it to feel meaningful day to day,

  • we need to get better at telling stories of what the business is up to.

  • We need to give work some of the intimacy of a small B&B even if it's a giant multinational.

  • Ensuring that work is meaningful is vital. It's not a luxury.

  • It determines the greatest issue of all in modern economics and politics:

  • how hard and well people will work,

  • and therefore, how successful and wealthy our societies can be.

The first requirement of any job is that it should pay.

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How to Find Meaningful Work

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    Sally Hsu posted on 2018/05/25
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